A peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies and is most prevalent among children. It can be a tricky allergy to have considering many foods are manufactured in facilities that process peanuts. An allergic reaction to peanuts can be quite severe, so it’s important to know what foods to avoid and how to handle a reaction, should one occur.
An allergic reaction to peanuts, as with any allergic reaction to food, is an immune system response to the proteins found within peanuts. The immune system recognizes the peanut as something harmful and launches an attack against it to protect the body. Antibodies called immunoglobulin E are produced and trigger the production of chemicals, including the chemical histamine, which causes many of the symptoms of the allergic reaction.
There are a few different ways in which an allergic reaction can be triggered:
Symptoms will begin to appear just a few minutes after coming into contact with a peanut. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include:
The most severe reaction is called anaphylaxis and is considered to be a medical emergency. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
A reaction that results in anaphylaxis requires medical attention and treatment by means of an epinephrine shot.
Sometimes, what may appear to be a food allergy could really turn out to be intolerance to a certain type of food. In some cases, the food may be tolerated in small amounts, while in other cases it cannot be tolerated at all with a food allergy.
In order to determine whether or not you truly have a peanut allergy, you should always seek diagnosis from your health care provider or physician. There are a few tests that a doctor may use to confirm whether or not you have a peanut allergy.
If it is determined that you have a peanut allergy, the next step is to prepare yourself in case of a reaction. Even if you avoid peanuts and peanut products, you may still be allergic to tree nuts or come in contact with something you may not suspect as being contaminated. Keep an over-the-counter antihistamine handy to reduce symptoms of a minor reaction. For a major reaction, you’ll need an epinephrine injection. This can be in the form of an EpiPen or TwinJect, which will inject a dose of epinephrine when pressed against your thigh.
Aside from keeping the necessary medications on hand, you’ll need to make some lifestyle adjustments to avoid having a reaction. Here are some tips to follow:
It may seem like a peanut allergy is limiting, but it just means that you have to be a little more creative in finding peanut-free options and alternatives. Those minor changes may not be ideal, but they could end up saving your life.